May 10, 2018
For the first time in the history of the Specific Claims Tribunal, an application has been granted requiring Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada (“Canada”) to respond to written questions on its historical policy and rationale in setting aside and surrendering First Nation land. In a judgement delivered by the Honourable W.L. Whalen on April 3, 2018, Maurice Law successfully argued the application on behalf of Little Black Bear First Nation. The application arose in the context of an alleged illegal surrender of a fishing station located on the Little Arm River in Southern Saskatchewan.
Given the uncertain nature of the historical documents provided by Canada to date, Maurice Law brought this application to ascertain further information on the specific claim. This successful application now sets an important precedent for First Nations resolving their specific claims at the Tribunal and allows for First Nations to question Canada on historical policy that may not be apparent from documentation. In its written reasons, the Specific Claims Tribunal was clear Canada has institutional memories that derive from documents, practices, and traditions. This application gives First Nations further access to these institutional memories.
This is pivotal in resolving the many outstanding specific claims of First Nations across Canada and provides further impetus for Canada to be open and transparent with its historical knowledge.